OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Fourteen mountain goats living high on a glacier on Mount Olympus were among the first to be captured and removed from Olympic National Park in the park’s third year of the removal project.
National Park, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials, along with volunteers and private contractors, began a two-week operation Monday to capture between 60 and 100 mountain goats and move them to the North Cascades.
Mountain goats were introduced into Olympic Mountains in the 1920s and are not native to the Olympic Peninsula.
The National Park Service decided after developing an Environmental Impact Statement and after a number of public meetings and hearings to capture and move goats and cull others after Bob Boardman, a Port Angeles man, was killed by a mountain goat in 2010.
The staging area for the captures is on Hurricane Hill Road past the Hurricane Ridge parking lot. The Hurricane Hill Trail, Little River Trail and Wolf Creek Trail are all closed to the public through Aug. 9.
Penny Wagner, a spokesperson for the Olympic National Park, said five adult females, one adult male, five kids and three yearlings were captured on Mount Olympus on Monday.
She said the operation went smoothly with good, clear weather, and the goats will be relocated to the Mount Tower area in the Okanogan Range in the north Cascades, a region where mountain goats are native.
“It was a pretty perfect day,” she said.
Officials have a two-week window for the capture, knowing there might be days they can’t conduct helicopter operations due to cloudy weather or high winds in the high reaches of the Olympics, Wagner said.
In 2018, the National Park Service estimated there were 725 mountain goats in the park. So far, 326 of the animals have been removed and 275 moved to the Cascade Range. Sixteen were taken to zoos, 27 died during capture and relocation operations, and eight have been culled.
Animals that cannot be captured will be targeted in a lethal removal operation conducted between Sept. 9 and Oct. 17 by 21 teams of three to six outdoors enthusiasts evaluated by National Park Service and state Department of Fish and Wildlife staff.
Aerial capture operations are conducted through a contract with Leading Edge Aviation, a private company that specializes in the capture and transport of wild animals. The helicopter crew uses immobilizing darts and net guns to capture mountain goats and transport them in slings to staging areas.
The animals are cared for by veterinarians before U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife managers transport them to staging areas in the north Cascades for release back to the wild.
Mountain goats that remain after being culled this fall will be lethally removed in aerial operations in 2021 and, if necessary, 2022, Wagner said.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be reached by email at [email protected].